Martin Luther King Jr. letter for sale for second time in two weeks
ATLANTA (AP) — A 1966 letter from the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is up for auction for the second time in two weeks.
The one-page typed letter– never before seen by the general public — contains King’s thoughts on the Vietnam War a year before he publicly spoke out against it.
Era Blakney, the recipient of the letter, sold it at an online auction last week for $6,500, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Now it’s being auctioned again, with requests for a starting bid of $95,000.
The newspaper reports that Gary Zimet, a California-based memorabilia dealer, is trying to flip the letter. Previously, he tried to broker the sale of the hearse that carried King’s body for $2.5 million. It didn’t sell, he told the newspaper.
“In my business, pricing is highly subjective. I have been in the business for 40 years and this is the most extraordinary thing to ever hit the market,” Zimet said. “When one gets a truly extraordinary item like this one, one can ask the moon. I am asking for the moon.”
Blakney reached out to different institutions to see if they were interested in the letter, she told the newspaper. She even reached out to the exclusive licensor of the King estate, Intellectual Properties Management, several times but never heard back.
The newspaper reports that Blakney and King didn’t know each other. King was responding to a letter she had written criticizing his position on the Vietnam War. Blakney was the owner of Richey’s Bar-B-Q Deli, a popular restaurant in Toledo, and her husband, Simmie S. Blakney, was a mathematician at the University of Toledo.
King’s response to Blakney changed her perspective on the war, she told the newspaper.
King biographer David Garrow told the newspaper he could see the letter being worth $20,000 but not $95,000. Garrow has spent time reading “mountains of King’s papers,” the newspaper reported.
Historians who have studied King said the letter is a key clue to the civil rights leader’s development. Following his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize, King began to feel dismayed at the country’s efforts in Vietnam. It wasn’t until 1967, though, that he publicly declared opposition to the war by delivering his “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence” speech at Riverside Church in New York City.
“This frustrates me because the more people think of letters for monetary value, the less available they become for historians,” King biographer Clayborne Carson told the newspaper.